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Name Game No Longer Applies to Small Shops —Michelson

June 2007
What’s the difference between a successful quick printer vs. a small commercial printing establishment? In today’s graphic arts industry paradigm, little to nothing. Both types of businesses may have a storefront or retail location, albeit likely serving a shrinking base of walk-in retail traffic. Both segments, in turn, rely on senior management and/or outside sales reps to call on local corporate accounts, hoping to build ongoing business relationships. Both entities have adopted, or are at least investigating, Internet-based customer interfaces to drive sales. Each typically outputs a wide range of short-run, general commercial work on digital devices and/or small-format offset presses—and brokers out what they can’t produce in-house.

The three small, but highly progressive, printing companies appearing on this issue’s cover perfectly illustrate this convergence. The Allegra Reno (NV) Print & Imaging franchise focuses on four-color work, incorporating a five-color Heidelberg Speedmaster perfector, metal CTP system and in-house bindery to complement its Xerox DocuTech and DocuColor digital printers. City Colors Digital Printing Center, of Doral, FL, prints solely for the trade, relying, in part, on a pair of Presstek 52DI direct imaging presses to quickly output full-color business cards, brochures and flyers. Sussex, WI-based Special Editions has grown from humble beginnings—once laboriously churning out four-color jobs with an old, one-color Harris sheetfed—to now producing color work six-up at 15,000 sph with its new five-color Ryobi with tower coater.

Small print shops, typically with under 20 employees, have had to evolve, just like their larger commercial printer brethren. With individuals and corporate workgroups increasingly fulfilling their monochrome and two-color output requirements on their own desktop printers and copiers, quick and small commercial printers are swimming further upstream into four-color and personalization, turning to short-run color digital and direct imaging (DI) presses, as well as traditional offset machines. They’re also morphing into full-service providers by incorporating graphic design, database management, binding/finishing and mailing capabilities, among others.

But, again, like their larger counterparts, smaller printers are struggling to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and to make clients and prospects more aware of their growing list of services. While FedEx Kinko’s (also profiled in this issue)—with a whopping $2 billion in sales and 1,600 stores—and large franchisors may have the financial resources and business acumen to market their brands on regional and national levels, independent quick and small commercial printing operations often rely on word-of-mouth as their only form of advertising. Likewise, franchises and independents now compete with a growing list of online printers, like VistaPrint among others, that specifically cater to the print needs of small businesses and similar end users. These Web-based purveyors offer very low prices and fast deliveries, largely through automated ordering efficiencies and gang run production practices.
 

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